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Richard’s Almanac: Island holidays

So today is Halloween.

Conversations with my grandchildren for the past month or so have been centering on “what I’m going to be.” The choices ranged from “Spider-Man” to an “avocado” to a “unicorn” and “Mickey Mouse.” A couple of the kids asked me what I did for Halloween when I was young.

I had to think hard about that. First, I do not remember the day being such a big deal. There were no costumes worn to school, no parades and very little mischief. There was some “Trick or Treat” activity but not a whole lot. I seem to remember going house to house with friends on Thanksgiving morning dressed like a ragamuffin and when our knock was answered, we would say, “Anything for Thanksgiving!”

We’d get an apple or an orange or perhaps some piece of change like a nickel or a quarter from the big spenders. I do not know the origin of that but it did not last long. I remember the last time I went begging at Thanksgiving I brought home lots of fruit that I piled in a bowl on the dining room table. Then I had to run upstairs and dress up for company coming for dinner.

After the Thanksgiving begging fizzled out, trick or treating was tackled in earnest. The first time I was serious about it is vivid in my memory. It was the early 1950s. We walked up to houses with “I Like Ike” signs on the lawns. 

Then the bad guys got involved and inserted razor blades in cakes and candies and all trick or treating stopped for a while.

Until only packaged treats were to be accepted. I believe that there’s still a bit of caution exercised in what type of treats to accept.

When I was off to college, there were costume parties but trick or treating was over. I remember going to one as Abraham Lincoln and another as a monk.

The Chequit always had a Halloween costume bash just before they closed down for the winter.

During my first job at a boarding school, Halloween was always marked with a costume contest in the dining hall. I can still hear the headmaster telling everyone that, “Tonight’s the night that we can all live out our fantasies.” And some kids had really creative and somewhat questionable costumes.

And the mischief was kept to a minimum, like when the students from one class found the largest pumpkin and signed it before placing it on the driver’s seat of my car. But then later on the mischief got worse and students got into the kitchen and took many eggs and pelted windows. A professional had to be called in to clean up. Halloween was cancelled for the next couple of years.

I really enjoy marking Halloween here on the Island. The kids’ parade is great, the festivities at the Fire House are fine and the trick or treating is safe and controlled.

The first parade I saw here was right after Super Storm Sandy. It was a tough time for everyone but the kids loved their Halloween celebrations. There was some talk about cancelling the parade but that quickly disappeared. 

Newspapers have had stories about the storm’s devastation and how some people are still suffering on Long Island seven years later. The storm came during my first year back here in a long time. It did not seem that we were hit very hard. I lost power for a few days but that was it. 

I did have to deal with a new row of hedges that I had installed a few weeks before. They were all on their sides but we were able to get them upright and they’re fine today.